Monday, January 31, 2011

Five years is a long time...

Photo: Five Years by Michael Ruiz

I debated whether to just let the day pass unnoticed, however it seemed I should at least acknowledge that today the blog is five years old! On January 31, 2006 I posted for the very first time here on my then new blog, In Spring it is the Dawn. I started very small, and unknown (that hasn't changed all that much). With frequent photos, very short thoughts on the books I was reading (I can't even call them reviews), and very very few comments. Over the years, my posts have gotten longer (not sure about better, although I like to think so), I found a little corner of the internet to call my own, and made some wonderful book friends.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Something new: Drinkable Pancakes

Pancake MilkshakeIt'll probably sound weird if I say I love Japanese vending machines, at least the drink ones, but it's kind of true. I'm not a huge soda drinker and generally prefer drinks that aren't sweet. In Canada this usually means my only choice is water, if that. But here in Japan there are all kinds of choices available in your average drink vending machine. Different kinds of green teas, Chinese teas, canned coffees of all varieties (with sugar, without, with milk, without, etc.), and of course water, juice, and so on. What's even cooler about Japanese vending machines is that half of the machine is switched to hot in the winter months. Cold outside? No problem, just warm yourself up with a hot green tea, or whatever you prefer. And vending machines are everywhere! As you can imagine, there is plenty of competition between the drink companies. So they're always coming up with new beverages, new blends, new packaging, all to entice people to buy their drinks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

'Sukkwan Island' by David Vann

Literary Fiction, 2010
Harper Collins, eBook, 104 p.
Winner of the Prix Médicis étranger 2010
Source: Kobobooks (Free book* offer from Harper Collins)

Sukkwan Island is a novella from David Vann’s debut collection of stories, Legend of a Suicide. This particular story was singled out last year when it won the Prix Médicis étranger, and for very good reason.

It’s the story of a young thirteen-year-old boy, Roy, who accepts his father’s invitation to try their hand at homesteading on the remote island of the title, in the southeastern Alaskan wilderness. Roy hasn’t spent a lot of time with his father in recent years, ever since his father and mother divorced and he moved to California with his mother and sister. Yet, he decides to uproot himself and go along with his father’s crazy idea. It’s just the two of them fending for themselves in a small wooden cabin, fishing and hunting for food, and preparing themselves for the harsh winter ahead. The situation becomes rather tense as they are stuck in close quarters for days on end, and Roy begins to seriously question his father’s ability to take care of them. Roy would like nothing better than to return to the life he left behind. At this point, something entirely dramatic and unexpected happens, and it becomes a true struggle for survival.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

'Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai' (The Manga Edition)

From the book by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Adapted by Sean Michael Wilson
Illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada
Based on the translation by William Scott Wilson
First published in the 18th century. Published in English translation in 1979; this manga edition in 2010.
Kodansha International, softcover, 144 p.
From the front flap:
The Way of the Samurai is not an easy road to travel, and aspiring samurai are often confounded by the ins and outs of the profession. Confronting just such a problem, young Tsuramoto Tashiro seeks the advice of the famous Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the retired-samurai-turned-Zen-monk who wrote the renowned Hagakure. The old samurai master grants the young man’s request, and so begins a unique education.
At each sitting, Tashiro listens in rapt attention as his teacher relates tales of samurai past. With brutal, unrelenting samurai justice, wrongs are righted and judgment is passed. With each incident, the young novice learns what it means to be a samurai. Learns what courage and right thought are. Learns the harsh realities and subtle wisdom of his age.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Japanese Literature Book Group Schedule for 2011

Japanese Literature Book Group

The Japanese Literature Book Group is, like the name suggests, an online book group with a focus on reading Japanese literature, hosted here on In Spring it is the Dawn. Thank you to everyone who took part in the discussions last year, even when I wasn't a very good host at times. We read a really interesting selection of contemporary and classic Japanese lit together last year, and I look forward to discovering more books with you in 2011.

There will be a few small changes this year. In my over-enthusiasm, last year with the Japanese Literature Book Group, the Japanese Literature Read-alongs, and the Hello Japan! mini-challenge all running concurrently, it was, to put it mildly, a bit hectic. So, this year's schedule will be a little more relaxed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What I've been reading (and Bloggiesta wrap-up)

In my last reading update, two weeks ago, I had just finished reading the fantastic novella, Sukkwan Island, by David Vann, and was just starting on his new novel, Caribou Island. Well, I have since finished Caribou Island, and while I think I liked Sukkwan Island a little bit more, it was still a very well-written, dark, compelling story. Kind of like a "car crash" novel. Because even though I knew what was coming, I couldn't look away, and had to keep reading. Expect reviews of both later this week.

I really felt like I needed a break from the darkness of these two stories, so we ended up watching a light romantic comedy, the evening I finished reading the novel, to clear my mind, as it were. Then I started on Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I first read this several years ago but with the movie out now I want to have the story fresh in my mind. Especially if I'm going to try to watch it in Japanese! I'm planning to see it next week, so wish me luck!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bloggiesta To-Do List

If you haven't yet heard, it's Bloggiesta this weekend! Hosted by Natasha of Maw Books, Bloggiesta is basically a kind of blogging marathon and an opportunity to do some of the many things you've been meaning to do on your blog but haven't got around to. I can tell you that I've got what seems like a gazillion things I need to do, both here and over on the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge Blog. I have some other non-blog things that need doing this weekend too but I'm going to try to spend as much time on the computer as I can over the next couple days. I'll update my Bloggiesta progress during the weekend on Twitter (hashtag #bloggiesta) and will then post about how much I got done on Monday. Below is a list of some of the tasks I'd like to work on, the ones with asterisks are those that are the highest priority. I know I won't get everything on this list done this weekend but any progress will be great.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Drinking Closer to Home' by Jessica Anya Blau

Fiction, 2010
Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
e-book/ARC, 368 p.
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
From the publisher:
There is nothing like ten days with one's family to bring forth old obsessions and stir up childhood memories. When Anna, Portia, and Emery’s mother, Louise, suffers a massive heart attack, the three grown children return to Santa Barbara to be with their father, Buzzy, as they wait for Louise to either recover or die.

Anna can’t stop thinking about sex with strangers, although in junior high she was terrifyingly certain that her free-loving parents had syphilis (from which they would shortly die). Portia’s beach-bunny teen years feel far away as she struggles with an unfaithful husband who has left her feeling boneless and unsure. And though Emery’s greatest childhood fear was that The Law would catch up with their parents for any one of their numerous transgressions (marijuana plants in the backyard; peeing in public; the time Louise quit being a housewife and gave Emery's care over to eight-year-old Portia), now his only worry is that he won’t be able to create his own family, a newer, better, improved version that will trump the impetuousness and chaos that ruled his childhood home.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Holiday reading

My last reading check-in was just before Christmas so I thought I'd tell you a little about what I've been reading over the holidays and these last couple of weeks. Christmas was a fairly quiet affair, with the requisite Christmas cake. Plus to get in the Christmas mood, along with my yearly viewing of Love, Actually, I read David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice. Some of the stories in the collection were very chuckle-worthy, but others... well, let's just say they weren't quite to my taste. Click on the book cover to read my review. I'd like to try another book of his though to see if it was just this particular collection that didn't completely work for me. If you're a Sedaris fan, please suggest which one I should read next.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Books Read in 2011

List of all books read in 2011. Click on the titles to read my reviews, where available.

1. Drinking Closer to Home - Jessica Anya Blau
2. Sukkwan Island - David Vann
3. Caribou Island - David Vann
4. Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai (The Manga Edition) - Yamamoto Tsunetomo
5. Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
6. The Fates Will Find Their Way - Hannah Pittard
7. Hear the Wind Sing - Haruki Murakami
8. Pinball, 1973 - Haruki Murakami
9. Enough About Love - Hervé Le Tellier
10. Under the Mercy Trees - Heather Newton
11. Beside the Sea - Véronique Olmi
12. Every Eye - Isobel English
13. Audition - Ryu Murakami
14. Remote Control - Kotaro Isaka
15. Maoh: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 1 - Kotaro Isaka, Illustrated by Megumi Osuga
16. Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice - Tetsu Kariya, Illustrated by Akira Hanasaki
17. Next World Novella - Matthias Poliycki
18. The Raising - Laura Kasischke
19. The Silent Cry - Kenzaburo Ōe
20. Oishinbo: Sake - Tetsu Kariya, Illustrated by Akira Hanasaki

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Reading Challenges: How I fared in 2010

This post could just as easily be titled "The Great Challenge Fail of 2010"! Along with my sporadic blogging last year, the challenges I joined in 2010 got rather neglected along the way. However, I did still manage to read some of the books I'd hoped to when I signed up. So, here's how I did.

First, a carry-over from 2009, as the challenge runs yearly from one Canada Day to the next, The Canadian Book Challenge 3. The goal was to read 13 books during the 12 months of the challenge and while it's a lot for me, slow reader that I am with varied interests, I enjoyed taking part in the challenge previously. The year before I almost reached the 13 but I only read ONE Canadian book from July 1st, 2009 to July 1st, 2010! I'm not sure I can still call myself a Canadian after that poor performance! I know my focus has been on Japanese Literature but I'm still disappointed. I suppose I'll have to catch up on Canadian Lit once I'm finally living there again. Needless to say, I didn't sign up for the 4th round of the challenge that's currently running.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Hello Japan! January mini-challenge: Something New

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. You can post about the task on your blog. Or if you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment on the Hello Japan! post for the month. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above, or if you have any questions please feel free to email me at inspringthedawn AT gmail DOT com.

January's Topic

It's a new year! A time to say farewell to the previous year and to think about what we'd like to accomplish in the year ahead. Whether you set yourself specific New Years Resolutions, or not, the New Year is often the the time to encourage ourselves to try something new.